Small Steps towards Greater Change
My first three months in Tanzania have been full of big life changes. The bustling streets of Arusha where I hold on tight as the Dala Dala takes me to work, nyama choma (BBQ beef), and practicing Swahili everywhere and anywhere that I can. I have been fortunate enough to experience the endless beauty of the Serengeti, have breakfast with elephants in Tarangire National Park as well as awe over the plethora’s of wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater – truly once in a lifetime experiences that I cherish every day.
So far I have made minor changes regarding my focus. I have realized that my passion lies in women as well as youth and WUSC has given me the opportunity to focus on both.
In Swahili there is a saying that says “pole pole”, meaning “slowly slowly”. I am blessed to see first-hand that change takes time in development. I now see change as a slow, yet exciting challenge in Tanzania.
I recently had an eye-opening experience whereby my colleague and I were able to conduct a small gender training to our counterpart using the UN Women’s Centre Gender Training. In retrospect, the ultimate idea of my mandate would be that the Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB) would no longer need volunteers that focus on youth and gender because they will be trained to focus and implement women and youth on their own. While going through the training, I kept thinking pole pole. Yes, change is important in development, however it is equally as important to be gender sensitive and understanding that we are bringing forth ideas of gender equality that are new and have yet to be fully explored (or explored at all) in Tanzania. This process cannot be rushed. Patience, understanding and knowing when to debrief certain topics, knowing when to continue and slow down are essential skills that I have learnt throughout my three months. From here, our counterpart has learned new gender sensitive terms, such as the difference between sex and gender. She now has a keen interest in gender and is willing to work towards her UN Gender Certification with me. To me, this is a successful and small action that can make a big change in the long run.
I have also been given the opportunity to be apart of a two-day networking training for women in cultural tourism enterprises (CTEs). I was able to assist in creating materials such as the powerpoint and designing certification badges, certificates of achievement as well as other communication and media tasks. On the first day, women were given a platform to speak freely on challenging issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace, financial instabilities, the difficulties in balancing family roles versus work roles and the underestimation of women’s ability to work. Not only were they able to express how they felt amongst women only, but other women provided advice and guidance to their fellow peers.
On the second day, men were invited to learn about how women are a major asset for business in their CTEs and this sparked lively discussion amongst both genders. The men were exposed to some issues that women face that must be changed in order for them to be physically, mentally and economically comfortable in the workplace. In order to achieve gender equality, all genders must be on board.
Trainees team building by playing the Human Knot game during the Women’s Network Certification Training taken in Arusha, Tanzania
As I continue to ponder questions of how to implement positive gender practices in CTEs, I am trying to understand and recognize cultural sensitivities involved in gender inequalities in Tanzania. I see development in my mandate as many small incremental changes; pole pole.
I am hopeful and excited for the Network to be a platform for women in CTEs to express their ambitions, strengths, issues, economic opportunities. The training clearly demonstrated that women helping women is powerful and leads to greater, more sustainable change. There is a lot of work to be done in order to achieve the objectives and goals of the Network, but I am honoured to work towards positive changes for my sisters all around Tanzania that enthusiastically, tirelessly and selflessly welcome tourists into their spaces each and every day.